Political elections are in the air. Both in the USA & here in NZ. I am wrestling with what I always wrestle in these seasons. Ethics. Neither the Right nor the Left is ever totally compelling for me. This is frustrating. Four documents are open in front of me to help guide me.
(a) One is the perennial best-seller from John Stott entitled Issues Facing Christians Today. There have been editions from 1984, 1990, 1999 - and now 2006. [NB - While I have this latest edition, I regret getting rid of the earlier editions as a study of the changes and revisions over the years would be fascinating.]
Here are the topics listed in the 2006 Table of Contents:
GLOBAL: War and Peace; Caring for Creation; Living with Global Poverty; Human Rights.
SOCIAL: the World of Work; Business Relationships; Celebrating Ethnic Diversity; Simplicity-Generosity-Contentment.
PERSONAL: Women, Men and God; Marriage, Cohabitation and Divorce; Abortion and Euthanasia; the New Biotechnology; Same-Sex Relationships.
(b) Then there is Samuel Waje Kunhiyop's African Christian Ethics (Hippo/Zondervan, 2008). As we might expect, the Table of Contents changes a little bit!
POLITICAL: Church and State, War and Violence, Strikes.
FINANCIAL: Poverty; Corruption; Fund-raising
MARRIAGE & FAMILY: Procreation and Infertility; Reproductive Technologies; Contraception; Polygamy; Domestic Violence; Divorce and Remarriage; Widows and Orphans.
SEXUAL: Rape; Incest; Prostitution and Sex-Trafficking; Female Circumcision; Homosexuality.
MEDICAL: HIV/Aids; Abortion; Euthanasia and Infanticide; Strikes and Medical Services; Drugs and Alcohol Abuse.
(c) Then there is just the Table of Contents of a book I saw over the weekend. I've read some reviews and it is climbing my 'must-read' list very quickly. Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths (IVP, 2008).
While maybe not a book directly on ethics, the Table of Contents does raise ethical issues:
Terrorism, Religious Violence, Human Rights, Multi-culturalism, Science, Post-colonialism.
(d) Then I turn my attention to a document produced by FamilyFirst(NZ) which reveals how every current NZ parliamentarian has voted on a range of family-related ethical issues. I congratulate them on doing some homework and putting a document like this into the public domain. For the record, their 'table of contents' (sort of?!) looks like this:
The Pro-Family Vote opposes recent legislation/policy on Prostitution, Civil Unions, Relationships Bill, Euthanasia Bill, Care of Children Act, Anti-Smacking Law.
The Pro-Family Vote supports recent legislation/policy on Parental Notification, Marriage Ammendment Bill, Drinking Age (raising it).
As I try to vote sensibly, let me try and articulate my frustrations (and leave you the opportunity to add yours).
1. I do not respond well to being told what the Pro-Family vote looks like.
2. While the word 'Christian' is absent from the document, for the vast majority of NZers this document will be perceived to be the Christian perspective. We must acknowldege this. Even though I myself am sympathetic to most of their positions on things, the disturbing conclusion to draw is that to be Pro-Family is to be right-of-centre politically (with very little exception). Really?!
3. So my biggest frustration is not with what is here, but with what isn't here. That is why I listed the other books first. For example, why are money-related issues not mentioned in this FamilyFirst document? Surely a big part of being pro-family in today's world is related to the use and abuse of money? Just look at the greed at work behind the current global financial meltdown. Is that not an ethical issue of equal concern to families?
Then what about issues related to the environment? The most compelling billboards here in NZ are those from the Green Party where across photos of the earth (and also little children!) are written the words 'vote for me'. Is this not a pro-family approach?
4. I do not think God looks down from his heaven and pays much attention to nation-states and the boundary lines that separate one from the other. His heart is for all the peoples of the world and mine should be the same. Somehow ... somewhere ... sometime ... the policies we advocate should put families first not just in NZ but in the countries of Africa (as one example) and this means taking their ethical issues more seriously.
Enuf - far too much, in fact - from me